New Brunswick

Nurses association faces lawsuit over 'atrocious' failure rate by francophones

A group promoting the rights of New Brunswick francophones revealed Monday it will file a lawsuit over the high rate of failure by francophone nursing graduates taking the licensing exam.

Nursing grads in province have highest rate of failure in country, partly because of poorly translated tests

Francophone nurses trained at the University of Moncton have had trouble passing a licensing exam created in the United States and adopted in most of Canada. Some questions turned out to be poorly translated. (iStock)

A group promoting the rights of New Brunswick francophones says it will file a lawsuit over the high rate of failure by francophone nursing graduates who take the licensing exam.

The suit against the Nurses Association of New Brunswick is being launched by the Société de l'Acadie du Nouveau-Brunswick, along with the student federation at the University of Moncton.

The move comes after a scathing report Friday by the Commissioner of Official Languages for New Brunswick that slammed the licensing exam created in the U.S. that is used to evaluate most nurses in Canada.

"It's certainly not a decision that was taken lightly," Ali Chiasson, executive director of the SANB, said of the lawsuit.

"It was more about the fact that we have many graduates of a nursing program, that by forces other than their own, have been weeded out."

Since the NCLEX-RN licensing exam was introduced across most of Canada in 2015, the University of Moncton went from having high success rates to seeing more than half its nursing graduates failing — the worst showing in the country.

Ali Chiasson, executive director of the Société de l'Acadie du Nouveau-Brunswick, says many francophone nursing graduates, because of forces outside their control, have been weeded out of the profession. (CBC News)

"The success rate at the university is very strong, yet these same students who have successfully finished their studies seem to fall down at the last stage of their professional development," said Chiasson.

"The failure rate is atrocious."

Positions go unfilled

As a result, some nursing graduates turned to other professions in recent years, after unsuccessful attempts to pass the licensing exam.

"If you graduated in 2016, now we're in 2018, you're still waiting to be able to pass the exam and work in the profession," Chiasson said. "That's positions that aren't filled, and that's students that have to fall on other means to make a living."

The Commissioner said the lack of preparatory materials and practice exams in French was a major factor in the high failure rates. (CBC)

Katherine d'Entremont, the official languages commissioner, started the investigation after two nursing graduates complained.

She concluded francophones were at a clear disadvantage, in part because preparatory materials in French were lacking, but also because some questions were translated by people "who were not qualified translators."

Fears over decreased enrolment

Gilles Lanteigne, the president of Vitalité Health Network, issued a news release Monday, urging change.

"We are currently facing enormous challenges in terms of the nursing workforce that require us to deploy extra efforts to address that reality," he said. "A reduced admission rate to the nursing profession as a result of a language issue clearly does not help our recruitment efforts."

Lanteigne said graduates from the nursing program at the University of Moncton have long proved themselves in Vitalité's hospitals and elsewhere in the country,

Gilles Lanteigne said nursing graduates from University of Moncton have longed proved themselves within the Vitalité Health Network, and he called for prompt action to correct the problems with the licensing exam. (CBC)

"Someone's language preference should never interfere with the nursing profession admission process," he said.

The language commissioner recommended an accredited translator prepare whatever licensing exam is used by the Nurses Association of New Brunswick, which is nursing's regulatory organization.

When reached by CBC News, the association said it could not comment, since the report was with the group's lawyers and it was awaiting recommendations.

The association has until September to submit a report to the commissioner to outline measures it has taken to respect the law on official languages.